I’m not going to write a year-in-review post. It’s been an epic year on many fronts, and next year is already shaping up to be bigger, more amazing and even more exhausting. In great ways.
So. What about 2015? For me, it was a year that I became more internally-focused. I traveled less. I worked more on the local campus context. And that’s a great thing. I plan to travel even less in 2016. I think the biggest impact I can have is in helping to foster active networks and communities on my own campus, and to connect people across faculties and contexts.
The biggest thing for me this year was working with my team to figure out what we’re doing, and to grow. We added two team members, and one left. We’re still planning to hire another in the next month. The team is focused on supporting the learning technologies used on campus, on building and evaluating new ones, and now on building a strong community through the coaches program and other initiatives. The addition of the community facilitation role is a fundamental shift as we get ready to transition into the new Taylor Institute in the spring. We can’t possibly be everything to everyone. We can’t possibly know everything. Or everyone. But, we can help promote communities and foster connections.
Things I’m thinking about for 2016:
- We’re still in the early stages of the biggest shift in communication in history. It’s accelerating, and we need to step back and see what this really looks like. I think we’ve been so deep in The Work™ that we haven’t seen the bigger shifts. We see smaller pieces, and we work on projects. But these are all part of an incredibly large shift. Our students now are different than when we were undergrads. Not the digital native nonsense – but content is no longer scarce. It is no longer “verified”. We can either resist that, or make sense of it and try to figure out what that means to the learning experience – and what it means to education and The University. My team can’t explore the shift in communication, and specifically in learning technologies (since that’s our direct mandate), if we don’t carve off time and space for that to happen.
- It’s time to disrupt disruption. I’m tuning out of the Silicon Valley Narrative. It’s corrosive. The story that innovation only happens as a result of angel investors and Venture Capital Unicorns is insane. Higher education is where many of the innovations that make up the digital communication shift come from. There are so many important research projects going on at our campus – we need to find them, work with them, and showcase what we’re all doing.
- Community is key. Local campus communities and broader ones. We need to nurture these. To connect them. And showcase the great things that people and the communities are doing. I’m hoping to work on some projects in 2016 that act like catalysts and incubators for communities, to bring different people together and to build what Nancy White describes as “intellectual estuaries”. That’s where the magic happens. It’s not individuals and heroes. It’s organic and evolving communities, coming together in new ways. It’s interdisciplinary research. It’s communities of practice that exist outside the structure of faculties or departments or institutions.
- Supporting rapid and cheap prototyping. We’ve had early success with letting instructors borrow gear to try out – stuff they wouldn’t be able to do without getting their own budgetary approval otherwise. We’ll have many opportunities for this kind of rapid prototyping – and I’m hoping we’ll be able to do the same kind of thing with the new technologies in the Taylor Institute. Provide a sandbox for the community to come together to try new things. Without everyone having to buy a bunch of stuff.
Anyway. Bring on 2016.